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Scouts may be thrifty, but some leaders are well paid

Many professional Scouters earn 6-figure salaries across the U.S.

Published: Sunday, Nov. 11 2007 12:09 a.m. MST

Scouts and their leaders salute during a presentation of colors at a national Scout Jamboree in 2005.

Lawrence Jackson, Associated Press

A Scout is thrifty, the Boy Scout Law teaches. Many adult leaders put that into practice by volunteering without pay and sacrificing precious time and vacation weeks for camps.

But guess how much the Great Salt Lake Council pays its full-time, professional Scout executive, Paul Moore.

It is $214,000 a year (including a salary of $194,458 and benefits of $19,544). In comparison, the salary of Vice President Dick Cheney is $215,700 a year, and the salaries of Chief Justice John Roberts and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are both $212,100.

"I know people may drop their toast in their cereal when they read that," Moore said.

"But I'm not embarrassed by my compensation. I've worked very hard and been very successful in this business," he said. "This is a life's work for me that has purchased 60 to 80 hours (a week) of my time for all of my working life. ... If I were not making that salary here, I would probably be making a larger salary in the BSA somewhere else."

He's right. Other similar Scout leaders nationally often make much more. At the top of that in 2005, the last year for which public data are readily available, was then-national Scout executive Roy Williams.

His compensation was nearly $1 million (including a salary of $552,379 and benefits of $436,040). President Bush was paid $400,000 that year.

Such information — of special interest in Utah, home of the nation's largest Scout councils as measured by membership in traditional troops and packs — is found in the Forms 990 that tax-exempt organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service. An analysis of such forms for nearly 300 Boy Scout councils nationwide by the Deseret Morning News reveals:

• Boy Scouts both in Utah and nationally tend to pay their top executives significantly more than do other large, nonprofit groups that serve youths. Boy Scouts say their organization requires more skills and longer hours than the other groups.

• The three Scout councils in Utah tend to have many more executives than average with salaries above $50,000 a year. Officials here say that is because many have long tenure and are responsible for training many times more volunteers than average because of the high number of Scouts here (where the LDS Church makes Scouting a formal part of its youth program).

• While pay for top Scout executives in Utah is high compared to salaries for such professions here as doctors and lawyers, those executives still generally receive less than fellow Scout executives elsewhere in similarly sized councils.

• Such salaries come while Friends of Scouting fund-raising drives here are different than anywhere else. In Utah, LDS Church congregations are assigned to visit all homes in their boundaries to solicit funds. Quotas are often set. If congregations fail to meet them, they may not receive discounts for camps and supplies that others enjoy. Elsewhere nationally, Scout leaders merely tend to explain needs to parents and seek funds without quotas.

• Councils in Utah tend to spend a higher percentage of their money on fund raising than average — while they spend a comparatively lower percentage on services. Officials say that is due, in part, to a need to raise money to buy or develop new camps. Current camps can handle only a quarter to half of the units in councils here.

Other youth groups

Compared to other large youth groups, Boy Scout executives both in Utah and nationally are paid more, according to 2005 compensation figures.

Utah has three Scout councils. Moore's 2005 compensation was $201,600 (since raised to $214,000) to lead the Great Salt Lake Council based in Salt Lake City. Thomas Powell (recently retired) was paid $161,413 to lead the Utah National Parks Council based in Orem. Rick Barnes was paid $122,153 to lead the Trapper Trails Council based in Ogden.

All were paid more than leaders of other local youth-serving groups. Elaine Gause, CEO of the Utah Girl Scouts, received $100,692 in compensation that year. Compensation for leaders of six Boys & Girls Clubs in Utah ranged from a low of $16,955 (for the director of one in Brigham City) to a high of $111,281 (for director of one in Salt Lake City).

At the national level, compensation of then-national Scout executive Williams (recently retired) totaled $988,409 in 2005. (Of that, $552,379 was salary and $436,030 was for deferred retirement benefits and compensation, use of a car, life insurance and other benefits.) Then-assistant Scout executive Ken Connolly was given more — $1.08 million — in compensation, largely because of large contributions to his retirement.

In comparison, national Boys & Girls Club President Roxanne Spillet received $868,604; national Girl Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger received $629,401; national 4-H Club President Donald Floyd Jr. received $572,027; national Big Brothers-Big Sisters President Judy Vredenburgh received $273,236; and Camp Fire USA CEO Stewart Smith received $199,431.

Of note, the BSA says it serves 4.6 million youths nationally. Among other groups, two say they serve more: the 4-H Club says it serves 6.5 million and Boys & Girls Clubs serve 4.8 million. Other groups serve fewer than the BSA: Girl Scouts serve 3.7 million; Camp Fire USA serves 750,000; and Big Brothers-Big Sisters serves 230,000.

Around the nation

Gregg Shields, spokesman for the national BSA, said Boy Scouts tend to pay more on the national level because they have a more complicated organization that provides more services than most other groups.

"Without any disrespect to other youth-serving organizations, BSA is unique in many ways," he said. That includes overseeing thousands of local groups, vast properties and camps, "insurance, magazines for youths and adults, and program offerings such as national and international jamborees that no other organization can tout."

He said, "BSA's 7,000 employees represent one employee for each 171 volunteers and one employee for each 657 youths. These are extraordinary numbers for a service organization."

Shields said Williams, who had 33 years of experience in 2005, was worth his salary as he oversaw a budget of $170 million and 304 local Scout councils.

Shields said, "Williams led the organization through a difficult transition period. This included finding new sponsors for packs, troops and crews that had been chartered by public schools." Also, he said Scouts increased financial stability during his tenure and enjoyed recent growth in the number of youths and adults involved in Scouting.

Also, Shields said all BSA pay ranges are set by volunteer boards and reviewed by independent third-party compensation experts regularly. The national organization is funded largely through registration paid by individual Scouts (the LDS Church itself pays registration for Scouts in units that it sponsors).

Local differences

Locally, Scout leaders say their salaries are higher than other youth groups because their organizations are larger and their jobs require longer hours and more skills.

Powell, the retired executive from the Utah National Parks Council, said, "When people asked what I do, I said name any 10 careers and a Scout executive touches them."

He said that includes being an educator, human relations director, salesman, promoter, organizer, disciplinarian "and sometimes a security guard, a plumber, a custodian or a garbage man if that is what the job requires."

He adds, "Most professional Scouters leave the position simply because their spouse can't take the hours or the schedule or the living circumstances that we often find ourselves in. They may want their husband home at 5 p.m. or on the weekends, but that is just not the case in professional Scouting."

A big difference in Utah is how many Scouts each of the three councils serve.

The councils in Orem, Salt Lake City and Ogden rank No. 1, 2 and 4 respectively nationally in how many youths are enrolled in traditional Cubs, Boy Scouts, Varsity and Venturing programs. (However, other councils rank higher in total youths served because of in-school programs that have relatively little following in Utah.)

Another big difference is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to make Scouting its activity arm for young males. So virtually every congregation sponsors Scout groups. The church also "calls" or appoints leaders, who tend to rotate every two years or so, creating more need for training here than elsewhere, officials say.

Dave Ricks, volunteer president of the Trapper Trails Council, said that in other places nationally, once Scout leaders are trained they tend to stay in Scouting for life. But in Utah, where LDS callings change regularly, "training is constant," putting a heavy load on executives here.

Paid well

Not just the top officials at Utah's Scout councils are paid well. Many others at those councils are, too.

The Great Salt Lake Council, for example, ranks No. 2 nationally for how many of its executives earn more than $50,000 a year. It lists 23. Only the Greater New York City Council has more, 40, and the National Capitol Area Council around Washington, D.C., ties with the Salt Lake council.

The council in Orem ties for 10th in the nation, with 14 employees making more than $50,000 a year, and the council in Ogden ties for 68th with five, according to 2005 data (although Barnes says it now has 13 who make more than $50,000).

Moore says so many are well paid in his council because many have long tenure. The starting salary nationally for new, entry-level Scout executives is $36,700, and the post requires a bachelor's degree. Moore says considering that starting point, "you see that anybody who has been with the organization 10 years or so are going to be up there."

He adds, "We have people of long tenure. And our typical district executive serves 200 to 300 units, and 3,000 to 5,000 youth members in our program. The national numbers for that are about 1,500 youths and 100 or fewer units."

He said a smaller staff that is more experienced and highly compensated accomplishes as much as a bigger group with more entry-level people.

Scott Baird, volunteer president of the Utah National Parks Council in Orem, said, "I wish that we had more that we were paying above $50,000 because it would reflect greater maturity and experience" and would help prevent them from leaving to other more lucrative Scout jobs elsewhere.

He said in local board meetings where salaries are discussed, "I've never had a single person in all of those budget meetings ... say, 'Are we paying our professionals too much?' We had several

who said, 'Are we paying our professionals well enough to attract good people and to keep them?'

"That's an indicator to me that not only are we paying fair compensation, but it is the desire of our constituency to do so," he said.

Baird adds, "We do some bad things to our professionals. ... We kill them; we overwork them. Nationwide, an average unit-serving executive would serve on the high side maybe 50 to 60 units. In the Utah National Parks Council, it is 200-plus units."

Of note, councils nationally of sizes similar to those in Utah (according to BSA rankings) average 12 employees making more than $50,000 a year. The average among all 293 councils for whom Forms 990 could be located was just two employees earning more than that amount.

By comparison

Professional Scouting appears to be one of the better-paying occupations in Utah.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reports that the highest average salary for any occupation it surveys is $193,960 annually for obstetricians/gynecologists. Moore's 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) was higher at $201,000 (and is currently $214,000).

Moore has 36 years of experience and a bachelor's degree. Obstetricians need a bachelor's plus four years of medical school and four years of residency.

The 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) of Powell, who retired in September as chief of the Orem-based Utah National Parks Council, was $161,413. That is higher than the average salary that the state reported for all physicians here, $153,920.

The 2005 compensation of Barnes at the Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council was $122,153. That is a bit below what the state reported as the average wage here for a lawyer, at $123,926. It is a bit above the average salary for psychiatrists, at $120,598.

The new entry-level wage for Scout executives nationally is now $36,700. That is just below the average Utah wage for all jobs in 2005 — $37,700 — as reported by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the top professional Scouters in Utah may make a lot compared to other professions here, they may be underpaid compared to leaders of other councils of similar size.

The BSA groups councils into seven different size categories based on the number of overall youths living in an area, youths in traditional Scout programs, youths in all Scouting programs, number of Scout professionals and total operating income. The three Utah councils are in the second-largest of the groupings, just below the "super-sized" councils.

The average 2005 compensation for top Scout executives at councils in their category nationally was $238,439 — meaning all the Utah executives earned less than average.

The highest compensation in councils of that size was $639,556 for David Larkin, Scout executive of the Atlanta Area Council.

The lowest was for Barnes locally in Ogden. In fact, 90 Scout executives in smaller councils are paid more than Barnes (who has 28 years experience) — including 10 councils that are grouped among the smallest category.

Of note, salaries are set by volunteer boards overseeing local councils. But the national BSA gives them ranges of high and low salaries that are acceptable for each position. Pay is also based on performance.

Moore notes that larger councils also usually look for someone who has experience leading a smaller council. He said a normal practice is to give them about a 15 percent raise to move to the larger council. (Moore has led three different councils.)

What is fair?

Scout officials defend their comparatively high salaries.

Baird, volunteer president of the Orem-based council, says, "Data has meaning in context. So to someone who is reading your newspaper and is earning $30,000 to $40,000 a year, yes I think it would sound like a lot of money to them."

But he compares a council Scout executive to a superintendent of a school district. "We have 68,000 students in our educational institution (council)," he said. "They are instructed by 35,000 volunteers. That is massive."

So he said a Scout executive earning $161,000, as Powell did there at the end of his career before retirement, is not much different than the $178,000 a year that he says the superintendent of Alpine School District receives, or the $127,000 for the superintendent of the Provo district or the $132,000 paid in the Nebo district.

He said comparisons to other Scout councils show pay here is at correct levels. "We also believe it is fair by the standard of other professions of similar standing in our community."

Ricks, the volunteer president of the Ogden-based council and a retired vice president of Browning firearms, said he has seen both in business and Scouting that, "If you don't pay well, you will not get top talent. If you don't get top people, you will just fail."

He says if Utah councils do not pay well, the top executives will simply go to other councils of similar size — and notes that councils here directly compete with possibly more attractive places to live such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, Orlando and Baltimore.

Moore says his accomplishments also help justify his salary. He says membership in his council grew 19.4 percent in three years; customer complaints went from five or so a day to less than one a week; it has reached out to form many new units by faiths other than the LDS Church; its fiscal rating by the BSA went from unsatisfactory to outstanding; and its assets increased 36 percent in three years.

Fund drives

A large percentage of money to run councils — including paying the comparatively high salaries — comes from "Friends of Scouting" drives that in Utah have quotas, potential punishments and church connections not seen elsewhere nationally.

In other states for such drives, Scout leaders visit local troop or pack meetings to explain what councils do, why they need money and to ask for donations. Drives in Utah are far different.

For example, Moore says the Great Salt Lake Council gives "suggested" amounts that LDS stakes (or groups of congregations) should raise. They divide that among congregations, or wards. Wards are then asked to contact every home in their area, whether LDS or not, to solicit funds to meet that goal.

Bishops and other local LDS leaders are often among those personally asking members and neighbors for money.

If a congregation does not meet that quota — or produce "measurable improvement" over previous results, as an information sheet says — its Scouts cannot be in the "Gold Club." Members in it receive 10 percent discounts for summer camps and 10 percent off many supplies sold at Scout stores.

"This is not a penalty per se for not reaching the goal," Moore said, adding it is just a way to thank those who do. "Nearly 10 percent of what we raise through Friends of Scouting goes back as discounts."

He adds that the council tries to keep annual increases in its Friends of Scouting goals small. "If you go out and achieve the suggested amount, we are not going to look at that and say, 'Oh, it was too easy,' and bump it up the next year."

The Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council also uses quotas. But it does not penalize those who do not achieve them, or reward those who do. Barnes said, "We just up front have a lower camp price. So go out and do your best, and we're going to offer you the most competitive camp price in the Intermountain West."

The Provo-based Utah National Parks Council in the past used quotas, Baird said, but has stopped doing so recently.

"The problem with quotas was a ward would go out and raise money until they reached it, and then would stop — not giving an opportunity for all the other people served by that unit to participate," said John Gailey, marketing director for that council.

Mike Plowman, finance director for that council, said, "If there's a new quota, so to speak, it is: reach every home in your boundary. That is because we've discovered through the years that we contact 30 percent of households, which to us is unacceptable because we feel like everybody deserves the opportunity to give."

Moore said he has been around Friends of Scouting drives "all my life, but this is different" using the LDS Church to attempt to contact every household in Utah.

"We have a tremendous blessing that comes to us because of the great relationship with the LDS Church," he said. "We are done (with Friends of Scouting) before most councils in America have even started their campaign."

Fund raising vs. services

Nationally, about 83 percent of spending by Boy Scout councils goes to programs and services for Scouts. Two of the three Utah councils spent less than average, according to 2005 disclosures.

The Ogden-based council spent 78.5 percent of its money on services (ranking 246 out of the 294 evaluated). The Orem-based council spent 81 percent (ranking 205th). And the Great Salt Lake Council matched the national average at 83 percent (ranking 160th).

Also nationally, about 8 percent of spending by local councils goes for fund raising. But again, two of three councils in Utah spent much more than that.

The Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council spent 15 percent on fund raising (12th highest in the nation), and the Great Salt Lake Council spends 11.4 percent (35th highest in the nation). The Orem-based Utah National Parks Council spends 5.3 percent, or less than average.

All three Utah councils said they made errors in 2005 reporting that made it appear they spent more on fund raising and less on services than they actually did. They said later studies on how employees divide their time showed they should have attributed less of their salaries to fund raising and management and more to services.

But all three also say they are conducting major fund-raising efforts, in part to help buy or develop new camps — which explains some of the higher fund-raising costs.

"We're able to serve less than 30 percent of our membership at summer camp," Moore said of the Great Salt Lake Council, meaning most of its units must go to camps run by other councils or strike out on their own. "We need to get our hands on properties that will allow us to serve more kids."

Baird at the Orem-based council said he figures camps it owns can serve between 25 percent and 40 percent of its Scouts. "It's woefully inadequate."

He said even when property has been donated, his council has had trouble raising enough just to develop it. "We had a substantial donation for a camp of 600 acres several years ago," he said. "We still don't have it opened to regular camp use ... because we lack the development capital to finish that camp."

Barnes at the Trapper Trails Council says it actually has enough developed camps to be able to serve about half the Scouts there. He says it actually owns enough undeveloped land around them to build enough camps to meet all likely needs for years to come. "We don't have to buy more land, just improve and develop what we have."

A final word

Scout leaders worry that examination of their salaries could hurt efforts to raise funds needed for the well-known good purposes of Scouting — or make them look greedy.

"I'm very concerned about this information from the standpoint that it comes across to people like I am here out of greed ... that people who have felt that I was acting out of a desire to help them and their kids succeed may look at this through different eyes," Moore said, brushing away some tears that came to his eyes.

"I have made sure that they have received great value," he said. "I'm not asking for or trying to be at the level that I could be at some other venues. I wanted to come here. I was not looking for more money."

He added that Scouting "is a treasured part of this community, and I would hate to think that my compensation damages in any way our ability to make a difference in kids' lives. But I realize this is part of what goes with the territory."


E-mail: lee@desnews.com

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